Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dear Magazine, I am not sorry we broke up

The newspaper is dying a slow death, but not in India. For many households it’s still the perfect accompaniment with morning tea even though the many reports of horrific rapes and killings fill you with sorrow and disgust at the same time. Every member of the family has a favourite page. During my teen-angsty days ‘the middle’ mostly witty accounts of personal anecdotes, was my favourite. My Dad stuck to the sports page and Mom would devour very inch of the paper. When the ‘middle’ was removed, I shed lonely tears on its demise. Unfortunately, there was no social media where I could call for a candlelight vigil.

These days I spend most time on the editorial page. In this age of constant explosion of news that’s breaking the Internet every few minutes, you need a learned and well-informed pen to help you make sense of the chaos and cacophony that passes off as news.

As in any middle class home where a household item has nine lives before its expiry, the newspaper too enacts many roles with ease. After it has fulfilled its purpose of informing and sending ripples of outrage down our spine, it quietly takes on the humble job of lining shelves in cupboards and cleaning windows. The ones that escape this ordeal hand meekly surrender themselves to the local raddiwala who defies inflation and offers lesser and lesser money for the same pile.

As I hand over the stack of rustling newspapers to its new custodian, I can’t help but notice the few odd magazines cutting a lonely picture. I carefully avert my eyes from their accusing glances. They believe I have forsaken them for a new lover and they are right.

Damn you, online distractions!

The fact is, we did have a passionate love affair for decades. They were my besties after a long, tiring day, my before bed companion, the secret behind my know-all attitude. I remember how excited RayMan was when I trundled home with Cosmopolitan and 110 ways to make your man sigh in bed. I read them all, giggled, rolled my eyes and then promptly forgot all the tips. And my man let out a loud sigh.

It was through Illustrated Weekly I discovered great artists and their work. My Maa’s Bangla magazine with its agony aunt column where youngsters would share incestuous, forbidden and supremely weird but exciting tales of love and longing stoked my desire to learn the language. Magazines were a one stop shop for stories, opinion pieces, satire and how to use onion juice to rejuvenate your hair.

During its achhe dins they were the stars of the educated class whose only source of entertainment was Doordarshan. A proud heap under the centre table of the living room, ‘The National Geographic’ placed strategically on the top. In fact, my favourite family friends were the ones with an enviable collection of magazines. Every time we would visit the family, I would pick up a bunch, look for an empty room and spend a blissful hour or two in their company. If not magazines, there were always comics.

A train journey would be incomplete without the customary stash of film magazines - stories created from nothing, making us believe we were getting a sneak peek into the dark lives of messed up superstars. Yet we lapped it all up. I remember how excited I would be when Baba would come home with those mags and how much will-power I had to exercise not to read them all before we got on the train.

These days when I go the salon and see the familiar bunch of glossies that made my heart beat faster lying on a table next to me, I don’t feel a thing! Nope, not even the customary curiosity how my ex is doing without me. 

When did the disenchantment start? Was it boredom or predictability that killed the relationship? And it seems I am not alone. People at large have stopped buying magazines. With social media WhatsApp groups and Netflix eating into our leisure time, nobody has time for magazines anymore. Serious readers prefer a long time commitment and would rather cosy up with a book.

Who wants to wait a fortnight to read an in-depth analysis of yet another political move when it has already been done to death by several newspaper columns, panel discussions and lengthy Facebook posts! And nobody cares which film star slept with whom.

Plus there’s no dearth of quality writing from all over the world you get to read online without having to pay a dime. For tips on Rapunzel hair, how to make daal that doesn’t look like custard there’s always WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

I recently joined a group dedicated to curly haired women, and all they talk about is how many hours and money they spend on haircare for perfectly natural curls. And just like my Cosmo days, I roll my eyes, giggle and forget all the tips I read the moment I logout.

The medium may have changed, but the feeling hasn’t.

Dear magazine, it was good while it lasted but now I don't miss you at all.


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